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DIY Liqueurs for Holiday Gifting

Many people enjoy receiving a bottle of a nice liqueur as  a holiday gift. When it's handmade, it makes it both delicious and personal. Here's a bunch of our favorite DIY liqueurs perfect for gifting. 

Citric Liqueurs:

Limoncello, found on
The classic lemon liqueur of southern Italy is a ray of sunshine during the dark winter months. It's easy to make, too.
Crema di Limoncello, found on
Crema di Limoncello 
Or try this twist on the classic Italian lemon liqueur, with cream and vanilla. The cream mellows the sweetness and gives it a richer mouthfeel.
Arancello, found on
Citrus liqueurs are not limited to lemon. Try it with oranges, be they standard navels or sanguine blood oranges.
Orange Liqueur, found on
Orange Liqueur 
Triple sec, Gran Marnier, Cointreau ... try your hand at making orange liqueur at home, and give your margaritas a DIY zing.
Vin d'Orange, found on
Vin d'Orange 
Vin d'Orange, a bitter liquor made with Seville oranges, is easy to prepare, requiring the mixing of a few ingredients and allowing it to sit for two weeks to allow the spices and orange zest to infuse the wine and vodka.
Whatevercello, found on
Think outside the lemon box and make liqueurs from whatever citrus you like -- bergamots, grapefruits, pomelos, and kumquats all work great.
Grapefruit Bitters, found on
Grapefruit Bitters 
Mix the natural bitterness of grapefruit with spices like pink peppercorn, cardamom or juniper to make an intriguing bitters that enhances many cocktails.

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Not Your Mama's Canning Book by Rebecca Lindamood

Not Your Mama's Canning Book by Rebecca Lindamood, found on

We've all canned a jillion jars of jam and whatnot, but where the rubber really hits the road in preserving is practicality. Once you've empowered yourself with the ability to preserve the things you really use in the everyday, you liberate yourself from the grocery store shelf. That's what I love about the new book Not Your Mama's Canning Book by Rebecca Lindamood. In the vein of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry and others, this book strives to arm the canner with a staple of foods that either turn into easy meals, or turn the humdrum into something special. See, for example, these zesty marinated mushrooms, delicious straight from the jar or as part of an antipasto plate. The author took time out of her schedule, busy no doubt promoting the book, writing her blog Foodie with Family, and raising her kids, to talk to us. 

PD: This book is wonderfully tailored to building a pantry of sensible, applicable items. Like many of us, you went through a phase of canning too much of some things, and too little of others. What is your advice to novice canners when considering what to can, and how much?

RL: It is great to can all the things, but it's a little disheartening when you put all the work into it and it languishes on the shelf. I think the best advice I have for novice canners is to can something you know you like. Are you crazy for jam? Start there. Are you a mustard nut? Make your own. As you gain confidence in your ability not to kill people with botulism, branch out. As for how much to put up? The first year you make a recipe, stick with a single batch until you know you love it, then calculate how much you think you'll eat. For example, the Smoky Roasted Salsa that is in Not Your Mama's Canning Book is one of the items we seem to have to increase every year to keep up with our ability to consume it.

PD: You live in rural Upstate New York, but your recipes pull from a global palate, including Mexico, Korea, India and more. Where do you derive your inspiration?

RL: I was an exchange student in high school and was bit hard by the travel bug. It seemed to me that my biggest human connection moments in all of my travel came when I shared food with people. Some of the global influence comes from my passion for travel, some of it comes from honouring the roots of my my multi-cultural family, some of it is just because food is good everywhere, man. I want to eat all the best the world has to offer.

PD: What preserved item do you turn to most frequently in the kitchen, either for a quick meal or to take a dish to the next level?

RL: Oooh. That's like asking which kid I like best. If I go by volume alone, I have to say we use the Smoky Roasted Salsa the most. We love it as a dip, but I also use it as the cooking liquid for roasts, and as a flavour boost for soups. Whole grain Dijon mustard comes in a close second. I put that stuff on and in everything.

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Many Ways to Preserve Cranberries

No other fruit embodies the flavor of fall like cranberries. With their bracing acidity, they form the backbone of all manner of preserved foods, and have applications well beyond the Thanksgiving table. Here's a bunch of ways to use these lovely ruby orbs.

Cranberry Sauce, found on
Cranberry Sauce
The homemade stuff is invariably better than what you buy on the shelf. But if you must have the ridges from the can, then make yours in an empty can to complete the effect. (Image via Food in Jars)
Cranberry Conserve, found on
Cranberry Conserve
Leave it chunky, plus maybe add the hearrty crunch of nuts, for a conserve that adds tooth to the classic sauce. (Image via Stephanie the Recipe Renovator)

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Conquering the Quixotic Quince

Knobby, hard and fuzzy, quince won't win any beauty contests, but their intoxicating perfume lures you in. Once you know how to conquer these rugged beasts, their heady flavor -- and substantial pectin structure -- make them a preserver's dream.

Canned Quinces, found on
Cutting a Quince
Quince are tough customers. Before you lop off a finger trying to chop into one, be sure to check out this video from What Julia Ate. Your digits will thank you.
Canned Quince in  Syrup, found on
Canned Quince in Syrup
Canned slices of aromatic quince made all the more exotic with white wine or rose syrup will find their way into your holiday baking regimen.

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Plenty of Ways to Put Up Pumpkins

Are you pumped for pumpkin season? Think beyond the Jack-o-Lantern and put up pumpkins and winter squash. You'll be living the gourd life.

Canned Pumpkin, found on
Canned Pumpkin
You can't can pumpkin purée or butter, but cubes in water can be safely pressure canned for future use. Here's how. (Image via Mason Jars and Mixing Bowls.)
Pumpkin Butter, found on
Pumpkin Butter
Smooth, creamy and seasoned with warming spices, pumpkin butter is a delicious autumnal condiment. You can't can it, but you'll go through it so quickly, it won't matter. (Image via Dash of East)
Why Can't I Can Pumpkin Butter, found on
Why Can't I Can Pumpkin Butter?
So how come you see pumpkin butter in mason jars from local farms and preserves makers, but you're not supposed to can it at home? We did a little digging.

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Eight Ways to Preserve Grapes

Veraison is upon us, which means the grapes are coming into season. Here's eight ways to preserve grapes, from the traditional jelly to chutney, raisins and more. 

Grape Jelly
Grape Jelly
The ultimate taste of childhood, grape jelly captures the essence of the fruit. Stick it to Smucker's and make your own. (While you're at it, make your own peanut butter, too.)
Grape Jam
Grape Jam
Less fussy than jelly, grape jam burst with the juicy flavor of grapes, especially if you have access to wild fruit.

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12 Ways to Put Up Tomatoes

Got tomatoes? Here's a rundown of ways to put up your maters, from basic canned tomatoes to salsa, ketchup and more. 

Canning Tomatoes, found on
Canning Tomatoes
Canning your own tomatoes is a great way to economize, but first you need to know a few things to do it safely. Learn how to put up your 'maters.
Tomato Paste, found on
Tomato Paste
Cook down your puree until thick and rich, and can or freeze to use in sauces. Paste on, friend.

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We Can Pickle That: Cucumbers!

Summer is on -- time to cue the cukes! Pickling is the way to go for most of us, but we have a few other tricks up our sleeves for cucumbers.

Sour Pickles
Sour Pickles
Our friend lactofermentation gives cucumbers their characteristic tang. This is the deli pickle of your dreams -- but there are a few tricks to perfecting crispy spears. (Image via Tim Vidra)
Half Sours
Half Sours
A slightly less salty brine produces a pickle with a slightly less sour tang. (Image via From Scratch Club)
East Coast New Pickles
East Coast New Pickles
A tradition in the Northeast, these pickles are brined but unfermented, making for a crisp, salty cuke. (Image via Linda Ziedrich)
Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles
Whether fermented or vinegar-brined, dill pickles are dill-icious, and endlessly variable. (Image via Talk of Tomatoes)

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Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti

Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti, found on

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Anyone who's followed my personal blog from the early days knows I make no secret of my Italian heritage. My mother's grandparents came from various parts of the South--Abruzzo, Campania, and Calabria--and that is the culinary heritage to which I am most connected. 

Preserved foods are deeply integrated into Italian culture. Fruit preserves, pickles, and of course tomatoes in their many manifestations are the backbone of many dishes. Cheeses and cured meats of course are defining elements of Italian cuisine. It's because of these things that I decided to lead culinary tours in Italy -- to help people explore the intense, vibrant flavors of this culture firsthand. 

Come on, you want to go to Italy and make preserves, piadina, hand-rolled pasta and more, right? Join us in October

So when I heard of Domenica Marchetti's book, Preserving Italy, I squealed with glee. And also envy. In short, this is the book I wish I had written. 

Marchetti gets to the soul of Italian preserving, in fact boldly leading with an entire chapter on foods preserved in oil. In this method, referred to as sott'olio (under oil) in Italian, acidied food is kept submerged under a layer of oil. The oil keeps out oxygen, which can lead to spoilage. The acidification of the food staves off botulism. The oil does more than simply protect the food, however; it imparts its own flavor, and tends to give foods, especially dried vegetables, a chewier, firmer texture that's very pleasing. 

(There is no current USDA recommendation for storing foods in oil; however, the UC Davis Extension has provided a method for packing dried tomatoes in oil, using the same principles.)

Recipe: Grilled Mixed Mushrooms in Oil

With regards to fruit preserves, Marchetti showcases classic Italian flavors: Apricot jam inflected with anise, peach-almond conserve spiked with Marsala, fig with orange zest, by way of example. But fruit makes sometimes surprising appearances in other categories, such as in a sweet, sour, and spicy pickled melon recipe, or for the classic mostarda, a fruit-based condiment with bold spices (most notably, mustard), something akin to an Italian version of chutney.

Though a new-world food, tomatoes merit an entire chapter, with recipes for preserving tomatoes in various states: Canned whole, puréed (passata), dried, and as tomato pages (conserva). Avid pressure canners will also dive deep into the recipes for classic meat sauce and beans in tomato sauce to put up for quick meals by and by. 

Marchetti touches on a few simple cheeses, quickly made with ready ingredients. There's a ricotta, which you'd expect, but a couple variations intrigue, such as a Ligurian prescinseua, approaching a cottage cheese texture, or a proto-ricotta called primo latte, just barely set and meant to be eaten fresh as possible. 

She also glances off the topic of salumi, offering a few fresh sausages, and for cured product, simple salt-cured pancetta and guanciale, acknowledging that dry-cured salumi tends to require equipment somewhat beyond the scope of the typical home cook.

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Peachy Keen

It's no coincidence that the word "peach" is connoted with so many positive things in our language. These fuzzy fruit are the ultimate taste of summer. And when they're in, they're in but good, so you better get on them. Here's a few thoughts on handling the bounty.
jam, jam and more jam
Jam, Jam and More Jam
Got a bushel of peaches? Jam those mamma jammas. And get inspired: Kick it up with Earl Grey tea, or basil and habanero, or pineapple sage. Mix it up with other fruit like plums or raspberries. The choices are endless.
Peach Preserves
Peach Preserves
Keep it chunky to preserve the texture of those juicy drupes!

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